The boys have been raising a little hell with Whitesnake across America… NRR managed to catch up with The Answer.
Northern Irish band, The Answer, has seen their fifth studio album, Raise A Little Hell, go straight to #1 in the UK rock album charts earlier this year. After the UK/Ireland leg of the tour, the boys undertook a grueling six-week tour of the US, supporting Whitesnake as well as some headline dates. Their UK return flight only touched down a few hours before heading to the Borderline venue in Londonâ€™s Soho for their â€˜intimateâ€™ gig to launch the third single from the album â€“ “Gone Too Long.” For NRR, it was a great opportunity to catch up with their frontman, Cormac Neeson, just after their sound check to chat about the new album, the tour, and whatâ€™s next for The Answer.
NRR: Welcome to the Borderline, Cormac. It was just in March that you released Raise A Little Hell with a tour of UK/Ireland and Hellfest in France, followed by a gruelling but, from reading your tour diary, really exciting six-week tour of the US, supporting Whitesnake. So, what compelled you to add this special, intimate gig tonight at the end of the tour, especially at a relatively small venue like the Borderline when anyone sane would expect you to want to head straight home?
Cormac Neeson: Yep, I think weâ€™re just gluttons for punishment really! (smiles) In all seriousness, weâ€™ve launched our new single “Gone Too Long” over the last couple of weeks, and so we just wanted a gig to provide a focal point for that launch and it was all arranged at relatively short notice. The tickets only went on sale about a month and a half ago and, thankfully, they sold out within a few days and then we purposely picked a small club like the Borderline, which we actually played six or seven years ago, back when we were first starting out, so we know it’s a great club, it’s a great rock and roll venue, a lot of great bands have passed through here, so thereâ€™s a lot of history attached to the venue as well. It just felt like the right club for a gig like this to get this single up and running.
NRR: Do you have a soft spot for the Borderline? Last time you played here was when you released the live material from the AC/DC tour (the 412 Days of Rock & Roll CD/DVD) and premiered songs from the then unreleased Revival album.
Cormac Neeson: Just the one and only other time we played here, it was a really enjoyable night and just feels like a proper, dirty, sweaty rock and roll club, the kind of clubs that we cut our teeth in as a band, so yes, it just felt right.
NRR: So, “Gone Too Long” will be the third single, due for international release on August 3rd, off the extremely well received Raise A Little Hell album ? Itâ€™s already been receiving a few plays on Planet Rock â€“ in fact, I heard it played just this morning.
Cormac Neeson: Yes, it all kicked off a couple of weeks back, you know we put a video out online which was shot back in Belfast, at another old venue that we played many times as a young band. Yeah, itâ€™s been getting great, great coverage on Planet Rock and just heard today that the biggest radio station in Ireland, Today FM, has play listed it for the week as well, so its getting a bit of national radio coverage as well which is not something weâ€™re particularly used to, unfortunately, but itâ€™s all very welcome and it seems to be opening a few doors for us.
The Answer – Gone Too Long (Official Video) – Napalm Records
NRR: Youâ€™ve supported Whitesnake before on their 2006 UK tour. How did it come about again this time? It seems you were really psyched up for this tour, being the first US tour for six years since you supported AC/DC on their world tour?
Cormac Neeson: Well, David Coverdaleâ€™s a good friend… at this stage, weâ€™ve played a few different tours with those guys over the years and when we heard they were touring the States, it coincided with a need on our behalf to get back over there because, as you said, itâ€™s been six years and we just couldnâ€™t leave it any longer to follow up on the 100 plus gigs we did with AC/DC around America, so the Whitesnake gig was the perfect opportunity to hook up with a great band, play in front of an appreciative rock and roll audience and make some new friends in the process so, yeah we were very psyched up, we were very excited about it all.
NRR: So, why the six year wait before your return to the States?
Cormac Neeson: It wasnâ€™t particularly through personal choice, it’s the age-old story of different stars needing to align, whether it be record companies coughing up tour support or the right tour popping up for us as well – a number of different factors led to the fact that weâ€™ve taken six years to get back but you know, we got back, weâ€™ve had a very successful six weeks and weâ€™re already trying to follow that up… weâ€™re looking to get back over there as soon as we can, after Christmas.
NRR: From what I read in your tour diary, there was a moment when it looked like, at the very last moment, you werenâ€™t going to make the US tour because of some problems with US immigration?
Cormac Neeson: Thatâ€™s right, Iâ€™m just glad that someoneâ€™s reading that diary. (laughs) It was basically something like a global system hack of the US immigration department that led to everybody around the worldâ€™s application for visas being frozen and this happened on the day we got ours stamped and we were told theyâ€™d get posted out over the next couple of days, then to come home that evening to an e-mail saying “we have your visa application and your passport, its all been frozen, you cannot access it and we can’t tell you when you can access it” – a complete nightmare and a lot of musicians and bands have cancelled tours as a result of it but we opted to change our flights to Dublin, because thereâ€™s a pre-clearance department in Dublin airport â€“ you go through the whole immigration thing before you actually leave Irish soil so, we paid a load of money to get the flights changed, got in there and had our luggage checked through. Weâ€™d been through security and then the pre-clearance happens – our luggage is already going to America, we just werenâ€™t sure whether we were or not … the next thing, a couple of guys come out of the office, start talking about Whitesnake … “he thought you were Whitesnake but youâ€™re not Whitesnake!” So, still not sure at this stage but the guys had a conversation and it turned out that they were rock and roll fans and there was no problem after that. (big smile)
NRR: So, what sort of a reception did you get from the US Whitesnake fans? Did many fans remember you from your tour, six years earlier?
Cormac Neeson: Well, you know, after every gig, I literally jump off the edge of the stage and go straight to the â€˜merchâ€™ stall … just as a piper, people can come and have beer … anybody that had already heard of us had heard of us via AC/DC, though there were a lot of people who hadnâ€™t, which felt good. It felt like we were winning over a lot of new fans and I literally shook hundreds of peopleâ€™s hands after each show, sold a lot of CDs, a lot of t-shirts, the vibe was very, very good, so just looking forward to getting back there again. We made festival appearances as well â€“ it was just a very well balanced, well rounded tour.
NRR: What did you notice about the difference in hard rock fans either side of the Atlantic?
Cormac Neeson: Itâ€™s definitely a whole different vibe when you compare the States to the UK or Europe â€“ I think it’s a cultural thing more than anything else, people have a slightly different attitude and thus approach rock and roll music in a different way as well. It feels like, when we were doing those Whitesnake gigs, it was probably the fact that it was Whitesnake and that attracted a particular type of music fan but everybody was there to have a good time and have fun and it was all a very positive, uplifting experience.
NRR: Youâ€™ve supported some really big bands in arenas, yet continue to play small venues to a smaller crowd, like the Borderline tonight and the acoustic gig you played after your main set at the O2 Islington Academy at the start of this tour. Do you have any preference for any particular type of venue and how do you adapt your performance to the venue?
Cormac Neeson: We enjoy them all, every gigâ€™s different, every venueâ€™s different, every countryâ€™s different but our attitude remains the same â€“ it’s just to make sure that we put on a good show and give people their moneyâ€™s worth basically.
NRR: You seem to have had a great time touring with Whitesnake, a great rapport between you… your tour diary even talks about Whitesnake partying in your RV?
Cormac Neeson: They did… yeah, and, during Whitesnakeâ€™s performances, David was literally just… exit stage, left in the middle of a show to give us high fives and clink our glasses at the side of the stage… it was kind of surreal in the middle of a show, but we appreciated it.
NRR: So, whatâ€™s the story behind the fireworks “display” referred to in the online diaries?
Cormac Neeson: Sounds like the 4th July… the night of the 3rd of July, heading into the 4th. One of the crew, a fireworks nutter, just had boxes and boxes of big assed fireworks… he started setting them off, one by one, and they were quite impressive for a “back of a car park” fireworks display. Then he decided that heâ€™d light his remaining four boxes of fireworks all at once so, myself and a couple of the other guys walked down with him with a lighter each and set fire to the whole lot … everyone had had a drink and, all of a sudden, one of the boxes flipped on its side, facing the on-looking crowd, so fireworks started hurtling like missiles towards everybody… there was a mass migration, people were just scattering everywhere, screaming like kids, hiding behind RVs and buses and lampposts, anywhere they could get shelter… Paul, our guitarist, got hit in the face… he was fine but … kids, donâ€™t play with fireworks â€“ you never know what could happen! (wide smile) But, it was a fun night.
NRR: With the success of the US tour behind you, I assume youâ€™ll be touring there again soon and wonâ€™t be making the US fans wait another six years before your next visit?
Cormac Neeson: Yeah, we hope so – we have a really good agent over there and heâ€™s already looking into getting us back over early next year.
NRR: A long tour must be pretty hard on your vocals. How do you look after your voice on a gruelling tour, especially with the amount of evening entertainment and fun?
Cormac Neeson: Itâ€™s just like any other muscle, your vocal chords kind of develop a bit of stamina on tours, youâ€™ve got to have a little level inkling of common sense as well and, if you feel your voice is getting strained, youâ€™ve got to leave the party, youâ€™ve got to protect your vocal chords – it’s the same way a guitar player can break his hand. You have to remember that’s why youâ€™re there in the first place.
NRR: You seem to really enjoy life on the road … do you all really get on as well as it appears?
Cormac Neeson: Yeah, we do, itâ€™s not just a faÃ§ade. Weâ€™ve been together now for almost 14 years, I think. We put the band together when we were kids, so weâ€™ve grown up together, we know each other inside out, we know what pisses each other off and how to appease each other as well. On a day off, Iâ€™ll purposely take a walk in the opposite direction and just get myself lost for a while and have a little bit of time on my own to clear my head.
NRR: What music do you listen to whilst on the road?
Cormac Neeson: We listened to a lot of Van Halen during this tour, to the point I was going “please, no more Van Halen” but that fell on deaf ears, but we listened to a lot of classic stuff too. Embarrassingly, we also listen to a lot of Whitesnake… having seen them play for an hour and a half, we get into the RV and stick on “In the Heat of the Night” or something, but we listen to an awful lot of different stuff â€“ it depends how long the party goes on for or, if weâ€™re drinking until the sun comes up, each album leads to another as it leads to another and you end up going in some pretty weird directions – that’s all part of the fun.
NRR: Are there any new or up and coming bands you listen to?
Cormac Neeson: Yeah, Cadillac 3 had a good rattle on the bus, a bit of Black Stone Cherry thrown in there as well, a bit of Rivals Sons… you know you also get hounded by young bands at gigs and we always give them a listen and check â€˜em out. (smile)
NRR: Raise A Little Hell, already #1 in the UK album charts, is being praised as your best album yet, the closest in representing the energy of your live shows. In this album, how do you feel you have evolved as a band since your earlier albums?
Cormac Neeson: I honestly think weâ€™ve got gradually better at what we do, whether it’s the playing element or singing element, also the song writing, also awareness of how to use a studio to your advantage and get a better perspective whenever youâ€™re recording a record â€“ to maybe resist laying down eight different guitars on a track and stick instead with the raw sound.
I think its confidence and just an awareness of your identity and what youâ€™re trying to say as a band. I think weâ€™ve definitely nailed it on this record, which is good.
NRR: As a band, how do you approach the song-writing process?
Cormac Neeson: Itâ€™s kind of equal, part jamming in a room and individuals bringing in songs to let the rest of the band work on, so thereâ€™s a bit of everybody in every song which is important to the band, important to the enthusiasm of the band, it keeps things fresh, addressed and fair for everybody as individuals and as a group.
NRR: Are you quite disciplined then, as a group, about your approach to writing new material?
Cormac Neeson: Youâ€™ve got to have a bit of discipline but you also have to be careful that it doesnâ€™t start to feel like a day job as well – that’s a balance you have to try and strike.
NRR: For Raise A Little Hell, you used the Pledge music platform. Why did you choose to use this, how do you feel it worked and would you use it again?
Cormac Neeson: Yeah, I think we will use it again. We used it as a pre-order campaign basically, just a way of efficiently organising that. Weâ€™ve also been able to offer hard-core fans extra bits and pieces, whether it be a signed lyric sheet, us coming to play in their living room or anything in between â€“it’s a colourful take on trying to sell music, I suppose, and it’s a sign of the times. The way the industry is at the moment, youâ€™ve got to roll with the changes and Pledge is definitely one of those organisations that raises change.
I think we always regard our fans as being a major part of the process, because theyâ€™re central to everything that we do and the Pledge bit literally gets it right.
NRR: Looking back at the earlier years, especially around the time of your debut album, as a band, are you where youâ€™d hoped youâ€™d be in 2015?
Cormac Neeson: Back then, I had no idea where I wanted to be at all, it was just like – weâ€™re going into a studio to make a record – this is amazing! Iâ€™ve never really looked too far ahead because it’s such a volatile industry, thereâ€™s no way to predict the future but, right now, Iâ€™m happy … happy where weâ€™re at â€“ weâ€™re a hard working band and, thankfully, people still want to come down to see us play and weâ€™re still writing good music and thatâ€™s the most important thing.
NRR: So, whatâ€™s next for the Answer in 2015?
Cormac Neeson: Weâ€™ve a few more festivals and then weâ€™ll probably take a week or two off just to clear the heads and then just get back in the studio and start working on new material until the next tour pops up. Iâ€™m not sure, thereâ€™s a few different things, bits and pieces weâ€™ve been talking about, for between now and Christmas. I donâ€™t think thereâ€™ll be another full tour from us until after Christmas. At that stage, thereâ€™ll probably be the UK, European and, hopefully, American circuits.
NRR: Some fans have asked me to ask you whether the band clubbed together to get Micky some glasses or did he buy his own? Also, how come he has no sombrero in the photos?
Cormac Neeson: Hahaha, Micky keeps his sombrero tucked away for special occasions as heâ€™s rarely photographed wearing it – itâ€™s like an endangered species. No, Micky can buy his own sunglasses as far as weâ€™re concerned. He has plenty of money, so he can buy his own.
NRR: Finally, is there any chance of Lynne Jackaman joining you on stage tonight?
Cormac Neeson: I don’t think so unfortunately, no, I think that was a nice little one-off the last time we played London. Yes, Lynneâ€™s a good friend and Iâ€™m sure weâ€™ll have her on stage with us in the future.
Eric Duvet was behind the lens for the night.
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